Story at a glance

  • The space agency Tuesday announced the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is scheduled to launch via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Nov. 24.
  • DART’s target will be a binary asteroid dubbed Didymos.
  • The mission will test an asteroid defense plan called the kinetic impactor technique, which essentially involves shooting spacecraft at the asteroid at a speed of nearly 15,000 miles per hour.

NASA is readying to test a planetary defense system that could one day prevent a “hazardous asteroid” from slamming into the Earth. 

The space agency Tuesday announced the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is scheduled to launch via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Nov. 24 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

The mission will test an asteroid defense plan called the kinetic impactor technique, which essentially involves shooting spacecraft at the asteroid at a speed of nearly 15,000 miles per hour to change its trajectory. 

“DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space,” NASA said in a release

DART’s target will be a binary asteroid dubbed Didymos. The asteroid system is made up of a 780-meter asteroid and a smaller “moonlet” measuring 160 meters across. 


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Using cameras and autonomous navigation, the spacecraft will deliberately crash into the moonlet at a speed of 6.6 kilometers per second, according to NASA. 

“The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, but this will change the orbital period of the moonlet by several - enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth,” the space agency said. 

After about a year of cruising through space, the spacecraft is scheduled to hit Didymos’ moonlet in September 2022. 


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Published on Oct 08, 2021